Is The Time Right For A U.S. Navy Base In Australia?

Euan Graham

The U.S. Naval War College’s James Holmes, a strategist of serious stature, has suggested that the U.S. Navy should establish a ‘massive’ base in Australia. This isn’t Holmes’s first stab at this. His initial proposal, back in 2011, apparently received the ‘gimlet-eye’ treatment from the would-be hosts.

Maybe there’s a touch of tongue-in-cheek to the ‘massive’ framing? If Holmes was hoping to provoke a rise from Down Under, the reaction from Australian commentators this time around has been more deadpan than gimlet-eyed. But a proposal this bold deserves a response.

I’ll have a go then.

Australians pride themselves on their reputation as a dependable ally on the battlefield. But they are more reluctant to yield up slices of their plentiful territory for foreign military use. The only enduring U.S. base on Australian soil is the joint intelligence facility at Pine Gap. The secret to its longevity is that it is rooted in an equitable burden-sharing arrangement.

That mutually beneficial arrangement has underpinned bipartisan support and enabled successive governments to argue that the national interest is served and sovereignty maintained. Australia also plays host to a sizeable Singaporean military contingent, for training purposes. Singapore pays its way and has incrementally acquired a reputation for respecting sovereignty.

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